Hopin founder and CEO Johnny Boufarhat.


LONDON — When Johnny Boufarhat founded his virtual events business two years ago, there was no pandemic, no lockdowns and no travel restrictions. That all changed in 2020.

The coronavirus outbreak forced a multitude of major events and conferences to be cancelled or postponed, as governments around the world imposed restrictions on public life to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The result was a boom in video conferencing software benefiting the likes of Zoom, Microsoft and Google.

But it wasn’t just U.S. tech giants that saw meteoric growth. Hopin, Boufarhat’s firm, and a handful of other start-ups including Run The World and Bizzabo, were met with heightened demand as event hosts raced to move their gatherings online.

That wave of demand quickly catapulted Hopin to “unicorn” status, with its valuation surging past $2 billion in a November funding round. Hopin’s market value then more than doubled to $5.65 billion in March.

Now, the company has bagged yet another mega investment, its fourth since February last year.

Hopin said Thursday it has raised $450 million in a funding round co-led by Arena Holdings and Altimeter Capital. The latest cash injection values the start-up at a whopping $7.75 billion, making it one of Europe’s most valuable tech unicorns.

A stroke of luck

Boufarhat, 27, said a lot of his firm’s success boiled down to luck.

“I feel lucky,” he told CNBC in an interview Thursday. “You work really hard, and you make some critical decisions to get your business to where it is. But there’s also a really big part of luck that takes you there.”

The Australian-born entrepreneur started Hopin in London in June 2019 after falling ill with an autoimmune disease that prevented him from leaving the house.

His company’s platform lets organizations host events online with up to 100,000 attendees, with tools for virtual talks and one-to-one networking. It proved a hit during the pandemic, and now has over 100,000 customers including American Express and NATO, while more than 17 million users have registered for an account.

The rising valuation of the business has made Boufarhat Britain’s youngest self-made billionaire on paper, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

To put Hopin’s growth into perspective, the company had only eight employees in March 2020. Its headcount now stands at 800. All of Hopin’s employees work remotely.

“Quite a few things that had to click in place for that to happen were out of my control,” Boufarhat said of the company’s success. “It’s actually sad, we wish Covid never happened. We were still growing fast pre-Covid but obviously Covid was a massive accelerator for the company.”

Can Hopin’s winning streak continue?

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